By on October 17, 2016

iCar Matt Posky TTAC

After numerous rumored postponements to the vehicle’s intended release, repeated strategy disagreements, large-scale layoffs, and the loss of key team members assigned to the self-driving vehicle project, it appears that Apple is scrapping the idea of building a car entirely.

According to Bloomberg, hundreds of members of Apple’s Project Titan have been laid off, reassigned to other projects, or have outright quit over the last few months. As a result, the initiative has been embarrassingly “refocused” once again. 

In 2015, Apple expanded its autonomous vehicle project from 200 people to over a thousand, frequently poaching experts from the automotive and tech sectors. Given the size of the team, it certainly looked like Apple was committed to bringing a car to market. But as deadlines slipped and more employees headed for the exit, that seemed less and less likely.

Now it just isn’t happening. This time around, the refocusing doesn’t include a production — or even prototype — vehicle at all. Instead, Apple has given itself a deadline of late next year to establish a self-driving system and decide the fate of the entire project. So, assuming the project survives at all, Apple will likely be using it to develop technology for existing automakers that may want an autonomous vehicle — Ford for example.

Reports on the issues surrounding the project’s ignominious breakdown highlight inconsistent management. One anonymous source interviewed by Bloomberg even referred to it as “an incredible failure of leadership.”

Bob Mansfield has headed Project Titan since Steve Zadesky’s departure earlier this year, providing oversight as hundreds of hardware engineers working on elements of the physical vehicle were cut from the program — the final nail in the iCar’s coffin. The remaining software engineers will continue progress on autonomous programs, driving sensors, and simulators to test the technology (should it actually be implemented on an actual vehicle). As stated earlier, they have until next year to do so.

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44 Comments on “No Car Will Be the New Apple Car...”


  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I always said this wasn’t going to amount to anything. Just another example of Apple hinting of a product while using secrecy to let the tech media build up the hype,,,then the released product is underwhelming….or in this case nothing. Classic apple. The Emperor has no clothes.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      The Emperor has about $200 billion worth of clothes.

      • 0 avatar
        orenwolf

        “Just another example of Apple hinting of a product”

        Apple has never, not once, hinted at the existence of this product. It is entirely driven by the media. I’d agree with you if they’d said anything but changed their mind, but they never have, I’m sure in large part because it was always a moonshot (if we can even fully trust media reports to begin with).

        • 0 avatar
          3800FAN

          So when Tim Cook said “it’s going to be Xmas Eve for a long time” when asked about titan, that’s not hinting?

          This is another apple hint….then the media goes crazy with it. It’s why nobody should ever believe apple rumors or take apple seriously.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      It is just a pump and dump operation. The media hype the stock price to $130, the stake holders sold a lot of shares at the elevated price, then crash it to $90.

      Just like the Twitter merger rumor.

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    Maybe it’s for the best this way. It would be frightening to have a car that is subjected to Apple’s whims. It might refuse to go near businesses that Apple disapproves of; a software update could disable the car if it detects that a non-Apple bike rack is installed; it will only work with Apple’s own tires; the charger requires installing a non-standard 567-Volt electrical system in your house; Apple discontinues support for the standard 12-Volt outlets and requires a $50 proprietary adapter. They would keep trying this stuff just to see how far they can push people.

  • avatar

    Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is no visionary like Steve Jobs was. His initial thought must have been, let’s poach away from the competition the best engineers and designers, and we’ll come up with something. WRONG! You need to have a vision first. Most designers are just stylists with an attitude. And engineers typically miss outside the box imagination, therefore don’t come up with outside the box new solutions. And that’s what you need.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      yeah but he doesn’t have to be. they need a visionary product guru, though. Apple was fairly atypical in the Jobs II era in having the CEO be the product guru.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      Steve Jobs just love to claim credit, he was no visionary himself.

      There are lots of “innovation” at all time, most of them just aren’t ready for the market, due to battery life.

      Will you buy a jack of all trade AppleWatch that last only 3 hours before recharge?

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    Sounds about right. People who know what they’re doing struggle with 10% margins. The rookie OEM would be in the red for two decades. (Ref Tesla)

    Software and electronics could do 50% margins no problem. Apple may have a mountain of cash, but they got there by making business cases.

    • 0 avatar
      thattruthguy

      Ford does much better than 10 percent on the F150, which is the most popular vehicle in America. If you could do that without Ford’s legacy costs and underperforming products, it would be a hell of a business.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        the problem in this industry is that if you put all of your eggs in one basket, you’re screwed if the market no longer wants your eggs.

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        Ford also has 30+ year brand recognition on that truck, massive sales volume (pushing 800,000), a tremendous amount of amortization cross-products (research and piece part development on Fusion/Focus/etc. feeds into F-150, and vice versa), long term agreements with suppliers, and etc.

        Tesla’s large money losses are a good equivalent to what Apple is trying to do. They sell the equivalent of a base 5-Series for loaded 7-Series money and lose money hand over fist.

        At the end of the day, a full size production grade stamping die costs a million bucks or more, whether it makes 10,000 parts or 4 million parts. (you basically can’t get out of a die shop for under 150k for even the piddliest stamping tool) A set of big casting tools like an engine block or motor housing could be in the 10s of millions. And lest we forget what it costs to tool up a BCM or an infotainment module. (you may have 30 modules on a modern car, but they’re copied everywhere, from the Escalade to the Cruze. No reason to reinvent the wheel. Can Tesla or Apple do that?)

        • 0 avatar
          thattruthguy

          If we’re taking that idea seriously, 800,000 units is easily enough volume for the heavy manufacturing like engines and transmissions. As far as volume for electronics, corporate overhead, etc goes, F150 LLC would have annual sales volume a little less than Subaru’s worldwide volume, and Subaru is doing fine. JLR dreams of selling 800,000 units. F150 LLC would also benefit from the efficiency of only having to develop its proprietary electronics, etc for one model instead of making its parts compatible with a big range of vehicles.

          It’s a business that eventually would be killed by market changes because it depends on dominating a single huge market in a single country, but the CEO would be paying himself huge bonuses til then.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Apple is accustomed to high profit margin, short product life turnover, little after sale support or repair, low liability risk exposure.

      None of that flies in the auto business.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    It’s the new Apple Newton!

    Except the Apple Newton actually got made. Hell, all of Apple’s old failures actually got made. The Apple III, the Lisa, the QuickTake cameras, the Newton…

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    This is why you don’t trust Apple rumours. Remember, this is the company who loves to tout “100 No’s for every Yes”. They won’t introduce a product if it doesn’t seem likely it will reach #1 in that segment. For that reason alone I always assumed an actual vehicle was a virtual nonstarter.

  • avatar
    ronald

    It is worth noting that Apple never announced this. I suspect they were perfectly aware that an Apple car was a moonshot. But, I give them a bit of credit for trying: what else are they going to do with that mountain of cash they are sitting on?

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Make better computers?

      There’s no middle of the road Apple desktop (the Mac Mini does NOT count) and the Mac Pro is a joke.

      • 0 avatar
        orenwolf

        I doubt that will change. Desktop business is a shrinking market – people prefer laptops (or in the case of my partner, tablets!) to desktops now. Apple makes amazing high-end display iMacs for people who need awesome, large screens (think media folk), otherwise it’s pretty much laptops now.

        There’s always niche markets (like hardcore gamers) that Apple ignores because they aren’t ever going to be #1 in that segment. Same with their rackmount servers.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I can’t stand modern laptops, so flimsy! And my experience trying out a $2k MacBook Pro was less than positive.

          I just want something like the old Macs I collect, a proper desktop with expandability and respectable power, but Apple hasn’t made one of those since the original Mac Pro went out of production.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            those are becoming fewer and further between on the PC side as well. the need for expansion slots has dwindled as more and more peripherals have been pulled onboard or into the system chipset. AFAIK the most usage by far of a PCI Express slot is for a graphics card.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Yeah, but Apple (and other manufacturers too, but Apple seems to be the main one) is selling computers with soldered-in RAM (the current Mini) and a massively expensive computer where all you can really change is the RAM (“trashcan” Mac Pro).

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I’m afraid you’re just precocious in learning at such a young age that mass marketing has moved on past your desires.

            You’re not dumb, illiterate, mobile or goo-goo enough for today’s computing trends.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I’m navigating this site on a computer I put together myself, I’m that kind of guy.

            My kind have shrunk dramatically over the decades, but we’re still around, and we’re always going to prioritize power over things that look really stylish and fancy!

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            Again, I doubt that will change now. I haven’t needed to add a peripheral to either of my laptops (I have both a macbook air and a pro) for years save two, a USB-to-serial adaptor for work on network gear, and a thunderbolt-to-gigabit ethernet adaptor for when I’m in the datacenter.

            The newer mac laptops run all day on a charge and with their single-piece metal body, they’re touch as hell. I’d probably switch out the air for a new macbook just because they’re so light and easy to carry around.

            Anyway, it depends entirely on your use case. My desktop has a thunderbolt raid array attached, and a few USB devices I use from time to time, but otherwise I’ve had little need for expansion in years. And this is from someone who, prior to 2006, had a linux-based old server for a desktop that I upgraded forever. Systems are powerful enough now that I just never think about it anymore.

            Anyway, back on topic – IMHO Apple would pick a segment in the car industry and want to be on the top of it, and I really don’t see how they could be vertically integrated enough to guarantee that. Especially with so much of modern car tech actually being made by suppliers rather than the companies themselves.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I just strongly dislike this concept of forced obsolescence in computing, and see soldered-in RAM and weird component layouts as a way to force you to spend X-thousand dollars on the new Apple MacBox instead of being able to spend a few hundred improving the one you’ve already got. At least the sh*t $300 laptops I sell at work are $300.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Start watching this guy… has a channel where he fixes late model Macbooks at half Apple’s price at the component level.

            youtube.com/watch?v=kwIuFgIzPXo

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            Apple doesn’t design machines out of forced obsolescence; the design requirements effectively force that.

            The battery life, weight and thermal requirements effectively dictate a single board without expansion: connectors add points of failure, timing issues and packaging problems.

            Apple isn’t alone in the this: Intel’s Ultrabook spec and several of it’s newer chipsets also dictate soldered RAM and move more and more components to onboard ICs. Eventually, we’ll be talking about x86 SoCs that include network controllers and software-defined radio modems. If you want serviceable, Lenovo will happily sell you a non-Ultrabook Thinkpad, but it’s significantly thicker, heavier and has worse battery life than it’s ultrabook brethren, or Apple’s offerings. It’ll be more expensive, too.

            Consumers just don’t care that a machine isn’t upgradeable or field-serviceable, and a large part of the reason is exactly the opposite of planned obsolescence: these machines last a hell of a long time and hold a lot of their original value—especially on the Apple side. It’s not uncommon to see C2D MacBooks fetching several hundred dollars, and to have half-decade-plus useful lives.

            Honestly, I blame Intel: everything since the C2D has been good enough that there’s just no reason to upgrade, and the race has largely been to pack better screens, slimmer profiles and longer run-times in.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Apple thrives on both high margins and moderate (Mac) to high (iPhone) volumes. there’s nowhere in the auto industry for that. Average industry margin is 8% (EBITDA.)

  • avatar
    whitworth

    Of course it’s not happening, it was an incredibly stupid rabbit hole that CEO Tim Cook was throwing money at. Glad I sold most of my shares of Apple a while ago, the company has no vision. And I’m a loyal Apple user.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      On the contrary, it is a good move. If there are lots of innovation in the self-driving car field and then everyone else except Apples have lots of patents, they’ll be screwed in lawsuit, blocked in App Stores and any ecosystem sales.

      Build a small team to get enough patents and stalemate each other, and you are golden.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Is that photo from an early Infiniti ad?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Every time this rumor came up my thought was Apple would really just build a software solution they would sell to OEMs. And its slowly looking like that is what is really happening here. Apple making a completely new car (platform, engine, etc) is crazy talk, but Apple making an iCarAppliance is totally within reason. Think of BOSE… you can order your brand new super turbo with or without a BOSE audio system. I can see Apple doing the same thing here. So you could get a car with (optional and expensive) Apple Avoidance, Apple Maps, Apple Audio, etc.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Last bunch of Braeburns I bought were hard enough to have been unibodied into an iCar. Shoulda phoned Cupertino.

  • avatar
    la834

    I can’t see this new direction lasting long either. Apple famously likes to “make the whole widget”, not just the software or partnering with other companies. The iPhone has been far more profitable than its competitors because Apple makes the hardware, the software, and related online services – the entire ecosystem. Android is popular but Google doesn’t make much money giving away an operating system that runs mostly on other companies’ hardware. Microsoft has reached the same conclusion and is now making tablets and laptops that run Windows. I can’t see Apple just providing software to Ford or something; either they’ll build the whole car or stay out of the automotive industry.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I heard Woz was admitted for a hernia from laughing all the way to …


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